Plants Have Rights Too!

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on the constitutional rights of . . . green grass, wildflowers, and other flora (“Switzerland’s Green Power Revolution: Ethicists Ponder Plants’ Rights,” Wall Street Journal, 10 October 2008). Soon, my academic web site FreeU will examine the negative impact of “Green” extremism on academic freedom and human prosperity, but for now, this breaking story from the plant world.
Wall Street Journal (excerpts):

“For years, Swiss scientists have blithely created genetically modified rice, corn and apples. But did they ever stop to consider just how humiliating such experiments may be to plants?

That’s a question they must now ask. Last spring, this small Alpine nation began mandating that geneticists conduct their research without trampling on a plant’s dignity.

‘Unfortunately, we have to take it seriously,’ Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich. ‘It’s one more constraint on doing genetic research. . . .’

The rule, based on a constitutional amendment, came into being after the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora’s dignity.

‘We couldn’t start laughing and tell the government we’re not going to do anything about it,” says Markus Schefer, a member of the ethics panel and a professor of law at the University of Basel. “The constitution requires it.’

In April, the team published a 22-page treatise on ‘the moral consideration of plants for their own sake.’ It stated that vegetation has an inherent value and that it is immoral to arbitrarily harm plants by, say, ‘decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason.'”

On the question of genetic modification, most of the panel argued that the dignity of plants could be safeguarded “as long as their independence, i.e., reproductive ability and adaptive ability, are ensured.” In other words: It’s wrong to genetically alter a plant and render it sterile. . . .”

Here is the English-language brochure put out by the Swiss ethics panel:

“The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants”

Americans will undoubtedly usher in the Green Revolution with language far more resounding than that of the dull Swiss scientists:

U.S. Constitution (Amended, 2012):

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and plants) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator (Gaia) with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (and adequate nutrients).”

Stay tuned for androcentric (human) stories on what university “green fee” money is funding. It’s not what you think.

Hint: The saying in Europe is “The Green Tree has Red Roots.”






Jonathan Bean is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the Independent book, Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.
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